The Bullitt Page

The Real Car - when it was located in Kentucky

© by Dave Kunz, Wolfgang Kohrn 1992-2018

Dave and Jim Smart tried to investigate into the whereabouts of the real BULLITT car in the early to mid 90ies. It took them years after years to trace down the history of the real thing.

Share their feelings, and read on, when they finally got a hint on the whereabouts of the real car...

Dave reported:
"The fellow who spotted it sent me some photos, but I swore they would not be published anywhere. He does not know the owner of the car, but rather the man whose barn the car is stored in.

I know it's really *the* car, as the VIN 8R02S125559 found on the car matches that on a letter from Warner Brothers confirming that the surviving car was sold to an employee of the studio. The letter is dated 1970, and is on Warner stationary.

As the car sat when the photos were taken, it was in about #4 condition. Though there was a lot of surface rust on things like fasteners and suspension parts, the body seems to be fairly rust-free. It has spent most of its life in the state of New Jersey, near New York. In the photos, the car still wore its New Jersey license plates.

Here's a quick rundown of the condition:
- 66,000 miles on odometer

- car seems to have been in a minor front collision, bumper, valance and grill are all missing, radiator support is bent;

- engine is in place but does not look like it has run in some time;

- carburetor missing;

- upper shock absorber mounts missing;

- many holes in inner fenders where extra bracing had been installed;

- the interior (Deluxe) is mostly intact, but quite dirty with trash all about the floor;

- 4-speed transmission still there, but stock shifter has been replaced with a Hurst unit
(in the film, the car had a stock Ford shifter);

- clutch pedal sits on floor -- as if the clutch or linkage are damaged;

- original American Racing wheels still on car, with rusted lug nuts;

- a non-stock (cheapie) steering wheel resides where McQueen's favoured leather wrapped Shelby steering wheel once served steering duty;

- Max Balchowski's numerous welded-on camera supports and modified exhaust (with glasspack mufflers) are still in place but badly rusted;

- extra bracing on rear leaf spring mounts;

- there is a factory "fog lamp" switch below the ashtray (car in movie had them removed, obviously).

And there are two items which really point to this being the "real deal", besides the VIN.
One is a fist-sized hole in the left inner fender inside the trunk.

I hae surmised that this was used to route exhaust from a trunk-mounted generator (to run lights and camera equipment). (Edit: 2018: The narration as of 2018 is that smoke was routed outside through this hole in the tire smoke scene)

The second is the door tag, still in place. Everything fits the circumstances of a car intended for use by Warner Brothers. The build date (late '67), DSO (Los Angeles), and other things confirm that this is, in fact, the car.

As far as what it would take to restore the car, I imagine it would need to be a "ground-up" resto. On the other hand, one would not want to disturb the modifications too much, for fear of harming the value. I imagine that if it were mine, I would do my best to get it mechanically sound, including a rebuild of the engine and trans. You'd also need to go through the brakes, and probably replace some of the suspension components that were subject to rotting. Any car that has sat for so long tends to deteriorate from lack of use.

Some minor body repair on the front to make it look decent, and a refinishing of the wheels would be in order too. I imagine that not touching the body too much, it would need about $10,000 in repairs."

Update July 2002:
Meanwhile the car has been moved from the Kentucky barn to another location. It is no more in the Kentucky barn indeed as we know. The current owner had been contacted by film producers more than once. There seems to be quite a good reason to keep the car hidden or maybe just a Man's promise to his family or his son, from what we know today.

Update September 2003:
Acc. to unconfirmed rumours the owner has started some work on the car together with his son as of 2003. Seems he wanted to keep the car for that purpose.

Update January 2005:

Brad Bowling mentions in a Mustang Monthly March 2005 readers response article, that the owner might "consider" to let it go to a Mustang Museum, if Ford backs it up. The car is still parked in the owners garage in Tennesse.

Update  2008:
Pictures of the car in the barn were offered to some publishers from somebody who called himself BULLITTBOY, but those were fortunately turned down as illegal - fair enough even by the magazine editors.
Rumours about a restoration were spread as well, but no evidence was turned up.

Update 2010:
Brad Bowling found the second owner of the BULLITT Mustang - Frank Marranca - and published an article in the April 2010 issue of the Mustang Enthusiast by Amos Publishing. 
You can read the article on line, if you register there.

We've got more details about the current owner from somebody who saw the car stored in his garage. As of 2010 it was still there.

Update 2015:
Obviously the owner died, but the car is kept by the family. The son must be close to 30 now.

Update 2017:
The second Bullitt Mustang (8R02S1125558) has been found in Mexico. It was the chase car that was believed to have been wrecked. Obviously that has not beeen crashed, but went south to Baja California, was titled at one time and got a red paint, later white, it was found in a backyard in Los Cabos/Baja and sold together with a hardtop to a new owner Ralph Garcia. How this affects the reappearance of the first Mustang, we will certainly soon know.

Update 2018 - Detroit Auto Show
As of January 14th, the car is no longer a mystery car. Sean Kiernan presented it with Molly McQueen at the Detroit Auto Show. We knew it was coming since November 2017, yet only could more or less subtle hints due to some remaining decisions as to where and when it would be shown or the plug pulled in the last minute for a better moment.

If you are interested to learn sth. more about the history of the Hero car, as it is called, visit Brad Bowlings website.. Brad is a former Mustang Times editor, co-editor of many Mustang books and Mustang Illustrated. He had located the last owner  years ago, Brad and Kevin Marti had been involved in the launch during the final steps to get this historic vehicle out. As a logical step the original Bullitt Mustang is now registered as HVA vehicle no. 21.

Read about
some more  facts on Brads webpage

We will stay in touch with it and report in our news section.

Thank you for watching this page for the past 25 years. Since the mystery is gone and many publications will cover the details, we have yet to find out what extra value we can offer here, as we do not want to copy mainstream information.
Stay tuned.

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